Washington - Today, the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) announced new rules for airlines that will bring passengers greater protections, including the full and upfront disclosure of hidden fees. The new regulations, which begin to take effect in late August and reach full effect in October, require airlines to disclose all potential fees and charges on their websites. US Senator Menendez (D-NJ), author of the Clear Airfares Act, a version of which was included in the final version of the FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act, released the following statement:

"This is great news for American travelers and consumers. It is simply unacceptable that at a time when families are watching every last penny, airlines are taking in billions in hidden fees. This is a cause I have long championed in the Senate and I am pleased to see the USDOT ruling to provide travelers with an upfront breakdown of exactly how much it will cost them to get to their destination."

The FAA bill that passed the Senate includes provisions from Menendez's Clear Airfares Act to assist consumers in making well informed decisions when purchasing airline tickets. The legislation requires airlines and third-party websites to provide consumers with a complete and understandable listing of total airfare charges, as well as any other possible fees that may be incurred on the flight (including: baggage, meals, blankets, headsets, changing reservations, changing seats, or extra legroom) before the ticket purchase is made.

The rule issued by DOT also follows the recommendations in a letter Menendez with 6 Senators from both sides of the aisle in September. The letter to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood urged him to protect consumers by requiring the full disclosure of ancillary fees on airline tickets.

PDF of the Letter: http://menendez.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/092310LetterLaHoodAirlineHiddenFees.pdf

Currently, consumers must navigate peripheral web pages and wade through often confusing text to understand whether or not an airfare includes surcharges and what other taxes and fees may have already been included. In some cases, for instance with trip insurance, consumers may have additional fees automatically added to the purchase, having to de-select or opt out of the additional charge. Numbers from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics reveal that airlines took in at least $4.3 billion from additional fees in 2010 -with the actual figure likely being much higher, since certain additional fees were not counted.